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Tag: Sir Simon Rattle

Berliner Philharmoniker – Waldbühne 2007꞉ Rhapsodies 2007 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The rhapsody is a very special musical genre: its main principle being its lack of principles – unbound by any formal requirements, a composer can indulge himself, dream away, and be as poetic as he pleases. In 2007, 20,000 Berliner Philharmoniker fans were there to see Sir Simon Rattle conduct some of the best examples of the genre at the Berlin Waldbühne.

With rhapsodies seeming particularly suited to portrayals of countries and landscapes, this concert resembled a musical journey through Europe: the Slav Antonín Dvořák, the Romanian George Enescu and the Englishman Frederick Delius all sang the praises of their home countries, and in Claude Debussy’s Première Rapsody, the solo clarinet gives the piece an unmistakably French flavour. Emmanuel Chabrier and Sergei Rachmaninov, on the other hand, looked to foreign climes for their inspiration: Chabrier to Spain, while Rachmaninov combined the Italian fire of Paganini with his own native Russian melancholy.

Other artists appeared along with chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle on the podium: pianist Stephen Hough made his Philharmoniker debut in the Rachmaninov, and Wenzel Fuchs, the orchestra’s principal clarinettist, played Debussy’s Rapsody “with a wonderfully soft tone and telling precision,” said Berlin’s Kulturradio. And then there was a surprising change of conductor at the very end, during the inescapable encore Berliner Luft, when Sir Simon swapped places with the flautist Michael Hasel, who then brought the evening to an end from the conductor’s stand.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Third concert in the Brahms / Schumann cycle with Simon Rattle 2014 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Much has been speculated about possible influences on Johannes Brahms’s Third Symphony, composed in the summer of 1883. Similarities between the main theme of the first movement and two bridge passages in Schumann’s Symphonies No. 1 (2nd movement) and No. 3 (1st movement) have been pointed out, not that any relevant indications were made by Brahms or Clara Schumann. (Each listener can arrive at his or her personal judgement with this juxtaposition of the two works conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.) One thing is clear: Brahms’s symphony filled his contemporaries with enthusiasm. “What a work, what poetry, the most harmonious mood throughout the whole piece, all the movements as if cast from one mould, one heartbeat, every movement is a jewel! – How one is surrounded by the mysterious spell of forest life from the beginning to the end!” (Clara Schumann).

Robert Schumann’s “Third”– in chronological terms his Fourth – was a resounding success at its premiere on 6 February 1851. The stirring and singularly vital work was celebrated as “a piece of Rhenish life in refreshing cheerfulness,” whereby the music “particularly made a visible impression in the first two middle movements” and was “heard to enthusiastic applause” (Rheinische Musikzeitung). The work’s title is attributed to Wilhelm Josef von Wasielewski, concertmaster of the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and later Schumann’s biographer: the composer was “first inspired” to create the work “by seeing Cologne cathedral”, which explains why it could be called “Rhenish”. Schumann, at least, was satisfied with his symphony: “Folk-like elements had to prevail here, and I believe I succeeded in doing so.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – The Berliner Philharmoniker, Simon Rattle and Karita Mattila at the “Proms” 2010 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

“Britain’s favourite musical son was back where he belonged,” was how The Independent described the three concerts given by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker at the BBC “Proms” in the Royal Albert Hall in London in September 2010. And the rousing applause left no doubt that the audiences agreed wholeheartedly with this assessment.

The Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle took the London music fans on a particular journey. In the music of the first half of the concert – the prelude to Wagner’s Parsifal and Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder – the richness and intensity of late Romantic music reaches its culmination and at the same time, anticipates the expressive and harmonic visions of the early 20th century. These become tangible in the works in the second half of the concert, starting with the Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16 by Arnold Schoenberg (who himself conducted the works at the “Proms” in 1914). This was followed by works from two of Schoenberg’s students: Anton Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 and Alban Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6.

Sir Simon Rattle himself explained during the concert that it was possible to view all of these works together as one unit, in that he asked the audience not to applaud between the works, but rather to listen to them as if they were a kind of “Eleventh Symphony by Gustav Mahler”. The vocal soloist Karita Mattila also deserves to be mentioned as one of the evening’s highlights. The Evening Standard wrote that no-one was better able to interpret the four Strauss songs with “a more golden tone or more musical intelligence”.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – The Berliner Philharmoniker in Taipei 2013 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

“We are probably the luckiest musicians on the planet,” Sir Simon Rattle shouted to the enthusiastic crowd who cheered the Berliner Philharmoniker and its chief conductor on the square in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The overwhelming reception followed a concert with performances of Boulez’ Notations and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E major in which the conductor and his orchestra succeeded in an exemplary manner in maintaining the work’s powerful lines of tension and bringing many often suppressed details to light.

After previous guest appearances in 2005 and 2011, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle had just played for the third time in Taipei. The orchestra is used to a good audience reception and standing ovations, but the enthusiastic response of the audience in Asia is always something very special. On this occasion, the musicians were rewarded with orchids and butterflies flying into the sky, and in return, the Philharmoniker’s multi-talented violist Ulrich Knörzer enthralled the hosts with a speech in Chinese.

The extremely demanding programme showed just how seriously the fans in the Far East are taken. Boulez’ Notations in the version for large orchestra are based on the work for piano of the same name, strongly influenced by the minimalism of Anton Webern, which the composer wrote in 1945. Rattle, who has known and admired the composer since his student days, is one of the most eloquent advocates of the fascinating musical language of the orchestral version. Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 is perhaps the most popular work of the great late-Romantic composer. Bruckner began composing the Adagio, one of the most profound musical movements of the 19th century, in anticipation of the death of the much admired Richard Wagner.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – The 2011 New Year’s Eve Concert with Simon Rattle and Evgeny Kissin 2011 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Time and again the New Year’s Eve Concerts at the Berlin Philharmonie have demonstrated that fastidious musicianship is by no means incompatible with entertainment value. To mark the end of 2011 the orchestra and Simon Rattle performed dance music of a particularly discerning kind by Dvořák, Grieg, Ravel, Strauss, Stravinsky and Brahms, with a rather more serious piece at the heart of the programme in the form of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Evgeny Kissin as the soloist.

It was at an earlier New Year’s Eve Concert in 1988 that Kissin had made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, performing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto under Herbert von Karajan. Twenty-three years later the former child prodigy showed that even at the age of forty he is still a force of nature at the keyboard. According to the critic of Der Tagesspiegel, it seemed “as if it was not hammers striking against steel strings but, rather, that Kissin was literally moulding the music with his hands, shaping and chiselling the raw material, driving waves of sound before him, allowing the notes to drain away, striking individual notes as if they were nails, and emptying a box of glass marbles. Tremendous applause.”

Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances and Brahms’s Hungarian Dances now feature regularly on the orchestra’s New Year’s Eve programmes under Sir Simon Rattle. In 2011 they were complemented by Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso, by the Dance of the Seven Veils from Strauss’s opera Salome and by excerpts from Stravinsky’s The Firebird. Here the bassoonist Stefan Schweigert and the oboist Albrecht Mayer were able to demonstrate their brilliance with thrilling solos before the orchestra brought the proceedings to a lively conclusion with two encores, sending their audience out into the night with terpsichorean abandon.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – The 2005 European Concert in Budapest 2005 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

On 1 May 2005, a year to the day after Hungary joined the European Union, the Berliner Philharmoniker gave their fifteenth European Concert at the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest. The magnificent neoclassical building was opened in 1884, fifteen years after the Vienna State Opera, a monument in stone enshrining the perpetual rivalry between the two capitals of the Danube monarchy. At its official opening, Kaiser Franz Joseph is said to have struck a diplomatic note when remarking that the opera house in Budapest may have been smaller in size than its Viennese counterpart, but that it was undoubtedly the more beautiful of the two.

As a homage to the host nation, the concert programme featured Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto performed by the Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos, who had made his debut with the orchestra two years earlier. Kavakos was born in 1967 and is widely regarded as one of the most exciting musicians of his generation. As the orchestra’s Artist in Residence during the 2012/13 season, he performed a total of six programmes that proved high points in the concert calendar at the Berlin Philharmonie. In this concert, he showed how delicate fragility and unrestrained energy are combined in this late work by Bartók.

The Budapest concert opened with Berlioz’s overture Le Corsaire, a classic example of the brilliant art of instrumentation designed to showcase the qualities of Sir Simon Rattle and his orchestra. The second half of the programme comprised Stravinsky’s The Firebird, a no less spectacular orchestral piece inspired by the folk music of its composer’s native Russia, just as Bartók was inspired by the folk music of his native Hungary.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – The 2004 European Concert from Athens 2004 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Since 1991 the Berliner Philharmoniker have given an annual May Day concert in a European venue of particular historical – and often cultural – significance in order to commemorate its foundation on 1 May 1882 and at the same time highlight the common legacy of the Old World. After visits to cities such as Madrid, St Petersburg, Stockholm, Kraków, Florence, Versailles and Lisbon, the choice fell on Athens in 2004, a year when the Olympic Games were also held in the city. Athens, moreover, is the cradle of western culture and democracy. As a result, Sir Simon Rattle found himself conducting his first European Concert in the Herodes Atticus Odeon at the foot of the Acropolis.

This theatre was built in AD 161 and in its day was regarded as the most beautiful theatre in Greece. It continues to provide seating for five thousand spectators, affording an exceptional setting whose impact on orchestra and conductor was not lost: “These great places give you a very, very special atmosphere,” says Rattle, “but you’re never sure, what they give. And often, the place brings its own magic.”

Not for the first time, this Europa Concert in Athens also involved Daniel Barenboim, who has been closely associated with the orchestra since 1964. This, however, was the first time he had appeared in the same concert as Sir Simon Rattle. On the programme were Brahms’ First Piano Concerto and First Piano Quartet, the latter in an orchestral arrangement by Arnold Schoenberg. By his own admission, Schoenberg’s aim in preparing this transcription was to ensure that everything in the score could be heard “at least once”, an aim that was never a problem for the orchestra and its chief conductor in the Odeon’s excellent acoustics.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – The 2002 New Year’s Eve Concert with Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town” 2002 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

When he conducted his first New Year’s Eve Concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle delighted his audience in the capital by declaring his love for another “wonderful town”: on the programme were excerpts from Bernstein’s musical Wonderful Town featuring swinging music of the finest kind performed by soloists from the stages of Broadway and by a home-grown band that was in the very best of possible moods.

The tale of two sisters from Ohio who find happiness and love in the “Big Apple” is a brilliant homage to the swinging, highly charged New York of the 1930s. With wit and irony Bernstein combines popular musical styles of the age, including the conga, swing and ragtime, with mellifluous ballads, the score as a whole characterised by irresistible pulsating rhythms that are among the composer’s hallmarks and that may be regarded as the epitome of dynamic metropolitan life on the banks of the Hudson at least since the time of the international success of West Side Story.

On this particular evening the Berlin Philharmonie was transformed into the sort of theatre associated with big shows, with lighting effects and a hint of dry ice delighting audience and press alike: “The Philharmoniker, their numbers swelled by a cohort of saxophonists recalling the world of big bands, played altogether fabulously, bringing to bear on the score the literally boundless luxury of their musical resources” (Berliner Zeitung), while their new principal conductor “threw himself with fresh-faced enthusiasm into the musical battle” (Berliner Morgenpost).

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Symphonic pictures with Sir Simon Rattle 2012 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

There is a gallery of symphonic pictures to admire in this concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle. Strolling through this gallery is like a tour through Europe – with stops in France, the Czech Republic, Austria and England.

Just as in any collection of paintings, some of the pictures here are more abstract than others. Claude Debussy’s non-narrative Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, based on a poem by Symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé, is such an example. In this case, it is exactly the shimmering fleetingness of the music that gives it its charm. In contrast, the fairytale story in Antonín Dvořák’s tone poem The Golden Spinning Wheel is portrayed almost literally. The question is more whether one should rather focus on the spontaneous joy of Dvořák’s balladesque music which provides the more intensive pleasure.

Arnold Schoenberg’s distinctive early work Verklärte Nacht can also be seen to tell a story – a relationship drama in a forest at night – but for the composer, it was about something else, namely the representation of “poetic nature and human feelings.” With Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, we reach the “portrait” section of our musical gallery. One theme is followed by 14 variations, each of which represents a significant person in Elgar’s circle of friends. The musical portrait entitled “Nimrod” is particularly well known. Thanks to its perfectly measured emotionalism, it is a must at almost every state occasion in Great Britain.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Sir Simon Rattle conducts Wagner’s “Die Walküre” 2012 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

When the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Simon Rattle, performed Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Festival of Aix-en-Provence in the summer of 2007, they had not played the work for four decades. “You do not know what an orchestra is until you have heard the Berliner Philharmoniker,” Le Monde wrote. “The brass astounded with their penetrating power and precision, strings and woodwinds left us speechless.” Luckily, it was not necessary to wait such a long time for the work to be performed by the orchestra again. In a concert performance conducted by Simon Rattle, Die Walküre was once again to be heard at the Philharmonie in 2012.

Some of the singers from the Aix production also reprise their roles here, including Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde. The critic of Libération wrote at that time, she was “in Olympic form: noble and powerful, with flexible, radiant top notes, a glorious low register and ideal characterisation.” Appearing with her is Evelyn Herlitzius as Brünnhilde, one of the most renowned Wagnerian singers of our time who has performed the role several times at the Bayreuth Festival. Among the male performers, however, there are some new discoveries to the world of Wagner. In the role of Siegmund is Christian Elsner, who first sang this role at the Semperoper in Dresden in April 2010; he was described as the “perfect interpreter” (Der Tagesspiegel) of the title role in a performance of Parsifal in Berlin. As Wotan, we hear Terje Stensvold who, after more than 25 years at the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo, became much in demand all over the world, including appearances at the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden in London and La Scala in Milan. In the course of this great development in his career, he turned increasingly to the work of Wagner and was soon considered one of the leading interpreters of Wotan.

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